liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
[personal profile] liv
[personal profile] mathcathy asked for an update on all things exercise, which is very appropriate since it was Cathy who managed to get me into a gym three years ago. Without her I'd probably still be dithering about it. Thanks to her helping me establish a habit, I've kept up with regular exercise at least twice a week since then, except for a couple of months this summer / autumn when I was held back by travel and illness.

Not very much has changed since my last exercise roundup. As in November, I'm mostly running, and I'm mostly in the gym because it's been either too cold or pouring with rain to run outdoors for the past two months. I'm using Zombies, Run! to motivate me, which I'm enjoying a great deal. It's not really a game in quite the way I was expecting, it's more of an interactive story. But it's a really really good story; I'm finding the podcasts really emotionally engaging, and really wanting to get to my next run in order to hear the next episode. Imagining that I'm running around in a post-apocalyptic world picking up supplies and avoiding zombies is good for my motivation to keep going even when running on a treadmill is boring and uncomfortable. The "zombie chase" random sprint intervals are fun, if really challenging, and I think helping to improve my fitness. I've improved somewhat from the slump in autumn, and I'm reasonably comfortable running for half an hour at 7 kph.

My short-term goals at the moment are:
  • keep up with running at least twice and preferably three times weekly.
  • Improve my 30 minute speed to 7.5 kph (and possibly faster still if that goes well)
  • Build back up to full 5 km runs, even if that means slowing down a bit.
  • Restart my Stronglifts programme for the days I'm not running. That's five sets of five reps of five weightlifting exercises that use most of your body rather than individual muscle groups, so squats, deadlifts, bench presses, barbell rows, and overhead presses.
These are not new year resolutions, by the way, they're just ongoing targets for what is now an established habit of doing regular exercise. I managed to do a weights workout today, having somewhat fallen out of the routine, so we'll see how that goes.

I think I need to get some guidance of some sort. The Council gym generally suits me very well, it's cheaper than commercial gyms and geographically convenient, being exactly on the way between work and home and in the centre of the town where I want to run errands anyway. The facilities are entirely adequate, especially now nearly all I want to do is run on treadmills. But sessions with a trainer only happen at weekends and have to be booked quite a long way in advance. I'm very rarely in a position to commit my weekends to spending time at the gym, though I do try to work out at the weekend when I can to be able to fit in my three times a week. Plus I imagine that now is a really bad time with all the new year resolutions crowd! If nothing else I don't think it's really safe to be teaching myself how to lift weights from watching videos and half-remembered stuff from the Absolute Pump classes I used to do at the old gym. Though I am finding [personal profile] piranha's links and detailed discussions of weightlifting technique really helpful. At this point I would seriously consider hiring a personal trainer at least for a few sessions, if I could find one who could bear not to nag me about weight loss!

Emotionally... I still don't enjoy exercise most of the time. But I don't hate it nearly as much as I expected to. I am finding I like running better than using cardio machines because it feels somehow real rather than exercise for the sake of exercise. And that isn't totally rational; I'm really working my muscles and my heart and lungs when I use an elliptical machine or stationary bike. But there's something about actually being able to move faster over the ground that doesn't depend on the exact quirks of the particular machine I'm using. On a good day running outdoors can be almost pleasant. The rest of the time, I like working to improve my "high-scores"; I am wondering if I should take up another incremental training regime since Couch to 5K worked so well for me and I've been making only very slow progress recently.

Mostly I like the effects of doing regular exercise more than I like actually doing it. I go out for runs like I clean the kitchen. Not because I enjoy it, particularly, but because my life is a lot better when I do it regularly. Sometimes it's a break from thinky work. I can put some music on and spend half an hour doing a task which is boring but not actively unpleasant. I don't usually spend hours procrastinating over the task any more, I just get on and do it when it's needed. I really do like being reasonably fit. Not getting out of breath climbing stairs or walking briskly when I'm late, being able to dance all evening without being unpleasantly exhausted, those are the sorts of things I wanted to be able to do when I started regular exercise, and I have attained that. It may be a placebo or a coincidence but I'm pretty convinced that keeping fit has improved my asthma. The combination of being fit, and being a bit more muscular than I have been in the past, and gradually improving my speed and strength, is really helping me to like my body. I've never had particular issues around body image, but it's easy enough for me to think of myself as living entirely in my brain, with this inconvenient meat suit that I have to drag around, and being positively present in my body I think is really good for me.

Healthwise, I'm in kind of a weird place. I think I have a moderately healthy lifestyle, in terms of both diet and physical activity. But I'm not the sort of super-amazingly healthy that fat people need to be in order to convince doubters that we have a right to be fat. I eat mostly good food and occasional less healthy convenience food. I am about averagely active I think (having been a couch potato for most of my life). I walk just about everywhere under 2 miles and quite often further than that, with the running forming vigorous exercise, even if it's 45 minutes 2 or 3 times a week rather than the recommended half an hour five times a week. I think this is about as much time and effort as I want to devote to improving my long-term health, but maybe it's not enough to mitigate risk factors, I'm not really sure.

My own personal longer-term goals are, well. I would like to improve my running just enough to do more social sorts of running, maybe Parkruns (yes, I know there's no theoretical minimum standard, but I am shooting for 5 km in 40 mins) or hashing. I don't imagine ever being a competitive runner; I don't have the body for it and I also don't have the dedication to train to that level. I would like to see how far I can go with building up muscle strength; I don't know if it's even reasonable to hope for half bodyweight with the big lifts but I would like to try. Again, it's impossible to imagine I might ever power lift competitively, but I would like to get somewhere into the range that counts as beginner level. I am still contemplating taking up some kind of fun exercise, perhaps learning a skill, now that my baseline fitness isn't bad enough to be a huge barrier. But finding time in my life to commit to a regular group still isn't straightforward. Things I'm considering: kayaking, climbing, folk dancing, maybe a very low key team sport. The main thing I definitely want to do is more hiking; I managed to get out precisely once in 2013 (thanks, [personal profile] syllopsium and it was really great fun, not the weird mixture of fun and misery hillwalking used to be when I was totally unfit.

In any case, heartfelt thanks again to [personal profile] mathcathy for getting me started, and for inspiring me with how thoroughly you're surpassing me these days with your really intense exercise regime!

[January Journal masterlist; there's still quite a few spaces so do feel free to add some more prompts even if you didn't get to it in December! Or indeed to make a second request if you're already in the list.]

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-07 09:50 pm (UTC)
ursula: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ursula
Are you interested in climbing? If you like building strength and having a defined goal other than sheer exercise, it might be a good match for you.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-08 10:46 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Climbing is awesome, obviously ;-p But it's rather organisation-heavy in that you have to round up at least one friend, and get yourselves to a climbing venue (not sure how liv's home town does for climbing venues); and you either need some nice friends to teach you (who you can co-ordinate time for climbing with) or to take introductory classes so you can learn the correct safety procedures and get some tips.

But once you've figured out the logistics... yeah, it's super fun.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-09 06:02 am (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
You're near the Peak District in SoT where Liv is ..when I was there I considered trying out orienteering jut never got to it - there will be arranged groups you can join in with to go climbing, too, almost certainly.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-09 01:01 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
What I like about the idea of orienteering is that it's team running and purposeful, like a treasurehunt .

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-09 01:32 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
That's pretty cool; and certainly makes it much easier.

I have never yet managed to organise an outdoor climbing trip... but maybe at some point...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-08 12:19 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You should take up cricket because it is great. (I say this to tease because I know full well you were conditioned to hate cricket by myself and your other brother. Still, it is a great game involving mild levels of physical activity. I can picture you as a late order biffer and slow right armer). If you were prepared to commit to serious fitness, you might enjoy rugby. That is a sport where everyone knows size and fitness are not related. I haven't been to a rugby club in years, but from memory the women's teams are certainly not anti-fat.

Seriously though, if you have any spare slots, can we have a post about Charlotte Cooper's criticisms of the body as a locus of health, and the way even fat activism focuses on health issues. That's assuming you have thought about her stuff. I figured it might be interesting to hear a biologist respond.


(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-08 11:42 am (UTC)
atreic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] atreic
This was interesting :-)

I know I say this probably annoyingly often, but if you are around Cambridge and looking for someone to go hashing with / go parkrunning with, I'd be very up for that. I like introducing people to things I like :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-09 06:09 am (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
Thank you :)

I've never heard of strong lifts! It sounds interesting.

I'm trying to persuade myself that I should include pilates / yoga / other serious stretching in my weekly routine, but when I try I tend to feel like I've wasted time, not burnt many calories.

That said, I went to a 90 min yoga class on the weekend because my usual pump class was still cancelled for Christmas and it was much harder from a heart rate perspective than I'd expected. I was able to hold most of the positions, but didn't like the surrounding mirrors proving how my body fat hangs as I put it in non upright positions.

I've never had a personal trainer lecture me about my weight and I've been much more overweight than you. Do they lecture or is that simply your expectation because doctors tend to?

And finally, go you! I hope you find a way to enjoy it. I particularly enjoy the social aspect these days - running into all the same people both at the London gym and on client site in Warwick. I look forward to seeing people I am now just occasionally seeing apart from the workouts.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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